Schools welcome funding

Otago school principals have applauded the Government's 2010 Budget which has injected an extra $1.4 billion into education for the next four years, but they are concerned there are some "fish hooks" hidden in it.

Education Minister Anne Tolley said the Budget, in a tight economic environment, allocated an extra $1.4 billion to education over four years and increased operational funding for schools by 4%, well above the rate of inflation.

"That means an additional $155.9 million for schools over four years, which shows our commitment to lifting student achievement and giving every single young New Zealander the opportunity to reach their potential."

Mrs Tolley said $14.7 million would also be given to area schools over four years to align staffing for years 7 and 8 pupils with other contributing and intermediate schools.

Schools would also benefit from the introduction of an unused-staffing entitlement, she said.

This meant a school that had not used all of its staffing entitlement by the end of the year, would receive a cash reimbursement, limited to 10% of its total staffing entitlement.

"This change, which will cost Government $10 million a year, will ensure schools receive all of the resources they are entitled to.

"To ensure funding is directed to where it is really needed, schools with students in years 9-13 will have their operational funding allocated using quarterly, rather than annual, roll counts from 2011."

This would encourage secondary schools to engage and retain pupils - one of the main aims of the youth guarantee scheme - and improve the accuracy of school operational funding.

Otago Secondary Principals Association chairman Kevin McSweeney said it was great to see the Government recognising education as a priority.

He welcomed the increase in operations grants, and believed area schools would be delighted with extra funding for year 7 and 8 pupils.

"Area schools have long felt like they were being lost between the cracks of primary and secondary funding."

However, he was concerned about the quarterly roll counts.

"Kids do leave school during the year and, presumably, that means funding will be decreased, as a result. In terms of budgeting and planning, it will make it very difficult for schools.

"Education appears to have done well in the Budget, but I do see some real fish hooks in it."

Otago Primary Principals Association president Jennifer Clarke was also pleased with the extra funding.

"It's good to see they have put some financial backing into the initiatives they have been talking about for the past 18 months. The money will help schools catch up with the gradual cost increases they have been absorbing over the past two to three years.

"Any money going into education is a positive move for a country."



FUNDING FOR SCHOOLS

• $155.9 million increase in operational grants over four years.

• $349.3 million in new operating and capital funding over four years for school property, including building new schools and repairing existing buildings (with $82 million towards leaky buildings in 2010-11); $40 million over four years to reduce surplus property and remove unsightly buildings from vacant sites.

• $48.1 million for youth guarantee scheme over four years.

• $15 million over two years for the positive behaviour for learning action plan.


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